Why Jimmy Fallon’s new ‘Tonight Show’ is an opportunity for conservatives

Jeremy Kee Seminarian, Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary
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With Jimmy Fallon officially helming the “Tonight Show,” many in political circles are now wondering about the political ramifications. Leno turned the show into a required campaign stop, yet Fallon has expressed his intent to keep politics off stage. With that intention comes a new reality, namely that the one late-night talk show that was always friendly to conservative public figures is gone, and has been replaced by the unknown. Many believe this a blow to conservative messaging, and thus overlook how potentially spectacular this new opportunity is.

No doubt Fallon is a much different host than his predecessor. An SNL alum, Fallon runs his show in a manner that befits his pedigree. His guests regularly play games like charades or help out with numerous of his other staple skits. His show is a sharp break from the “Tonight Show” of yore, and in so doing aims to build his viewership among a demographic highly coveted across the political spectrum – the young people.

Leno appealed much more to the middle age, midwestern demographic. He was light, inoffensive, and evenhanded with his guests. In his time as host, Leno developed a sterling reputation for being welcoming and accommodating with all of his guests (“Hollywood” Hulk Hogan notwithstanding). For the politicos, he was even known to brief them on the interview before hand, that they may be prepared. It is for this reason that a relatively high number of GOP figures were known to stop by, most notably Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan, John Boehner, Ted Cruz, and former President George W. Bush.

Fallon has stated his desire to avoid being political, but this is not to say that he intends to disengage from those in the political sphere; one of his first guests in his new gig was none other than First Lady Michelle Obama. Rather, he merely intends to put on display the humanity of the politicians, while keeping their politics off set.

This could, if approached properly, prove invaluable for conservative politicians. But how?

It’s hardly a secret that conservatives are disconnected from young people, due in no small part to the manner in which vanguard conservatives present the message. Particularly in the minds of the coveted 18-24 demographic, modern conservatism is an empty, vacuous ideology for those whose only aim is to be rich. Yet they only believe this because they are yet to be exposed to those in the movement who hold more traditionally conservatives beliefs that likely would actually appeal to the younger set; values that care less about one’s bank account and more about the condition of one’s soul.

Conservatives, may find the new “Tonight Show” to be a good opportunity to connect with the younger voters not in a political, but rather in a humane manner. With Fallon’s emphasis on skits and stunts lacking any emotional or intellectual depth, conservatives may begin to shake the notion that they are empty, soulless shills for the rich. President Obama was once on Fallon’s previous show, during which he assisted Fallon in a popular skit known as “Slow Jams,” where Fallon and the guest talk about the news of the day in a Barry White-esque fashion. Silly. Preposterous. Effective.

By opening up to this nonsensical sort of public appearance, conservative figures may begin to relate to their younger neighbors. They need not aim to win votes with every appearance. They need only to win hearts. If done successfully, sympathy and votes will follow.